Cornelia Parker, 1988

“When I visited the forest in December it was raining gently and the place seemed to glow as if it were twilight. There was a feeling of being underwater, the bare trees were rimed with green, covered as they were with various lichen. This green vibrated against the bright orange floor, carpeted with leaves and pine needles. I was struck by the spirituality of the place, its hush that you might experience on entering a small church. I half expected to encounter something quite extraordinary, a feeling that kept me looking upwards and over my shoulder as we walked. “ Cornelia Parker

Hanging Fire is a ring of cast-iron flames, hanging upside down and encircling a sycamore tree standing in the middle of a ring of five more sycamores. Parker cast the flames in resin in her London studio before sending the model to Cannop Foundry to be cast in iron. The flames draw on the symbolism of the crown, relating to the forest’s royal history.

In the artist’s words: “The impression I wanted the sculpture to create was that of a natural phenomenon or a magical vision, but also of something ancient, as old as the forest. To invoke this feeling of age, cast iron seemed a very appropriate material to use. As well as being one of the first metals used by man and indigenous to the Forest of Dean, I liked the fact it would record the damp atmosphere and echo the colours of the place by rusting. Thinking of an image that would encourage this idea of elusive eternity, fire sprang to mind, a flame that would perpetually burn because it was cast in iron. A circle or fairy ring was another image that kept recurring, this evolved eventually into a crown. The image that I arrived at, that satisfied my first intentions, was that of a crown of flames hanging upside down in an oak tree.”

During her residency in the forest, Parker created three additional works. A series of nine small copper crowns were encircled in copper leaves, each representing a different species of tree. These were hung near to Hanging Fire. A second work, Unravelling Oak, was an unravelling wreath modelled from sheet lead. The final work was a series of sheet lead sycamore leaves which were nailed to dead trees and bent upwards to mimic bracket fungi.

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About the Artist

Cornelia Parker was born in 1956 in Cheshire. She studied at Gloucester College of Art (1974-1975), Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975-1978) and Reading University (1980-1982). Working in a range of mediums, she is best known for her large scale, site specific sculptures and installation art such as Cold Dark Matter (1991), The Maybe (1995) and The Distance (2003). She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997 and was made Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.